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International Society for Krishna Consciousness

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The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly called Hare Krishna, is a new religious movement based on Gaudiya, Vaishnavism founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, referred to by followers as "Prabhupada," in New York in 1966. ISKCON is a society formed for practitioners of bhakti yoga or the yoga of devotion. The bhakta's devotion is specifically directed towards Krishna, along with Radha his divine consort.

Contents

An overview

Hare Krishna devotees are known for their singing and dancing with drums and cymbals in streets of cities round the world; the ladies in colourful saris, the married men in white dhotis and the celibate monks in saffron dhotis.

The great mantra

The popular nickname "Hare Krishnas" for devotees of this movement comes from the maha-mantra (great chant) they recite, which is written in Kali-santarana Upanisad and other Vedic scriptures, and promoted by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared in Mayapur, India in 1486 CE. In the West the mantra is linked inextricably to ISKCON but in India it is chanted independent of any particular movement. The sound vibration created by repeating these names of God is said to gradually induce pure God-consciousness. It is as follows:

HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE

The maha mantra appears originally in the Kali Santarana Upanisad:

hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare

iti sodasakam namnam kali-kalmasa-nasanam natah parataropayah sarva-vedesu drsyate

"These sixteen names destroy the sins of the Kali age. No method higher than this is found in all the Vedas." (Lord Brahma to Narada Muni)

Krishna and Rama are names of God and Hare (vocative of 'Hara') refers to God's Shakti, known as Sri Radha, or Radharani.

Frequently other mantras will be creatively appended to this, as in the background vocals to "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison. See maha mantra (http://www.iskcon.org.uk/rathayatra/audio/indradyumna_sw.ram) for an audio recording of the chant, link courtesy of ISKCON United Kingdom (http://www.iskcon.org.uk/).

Philosophy and history

Hare Krishna devotees understand Krishna to be non-different from Vishnu, and the highest form of God, or "the Supreme Personality of Godhead", and Radha to be his female counterpart, the embodiment of love. The teachings of bhakti yoga date back to the Vedic era and were fully developed since the times of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in West Bengal in the mid 1500s. Thus Hare Krishna devotees specifically follow a disciplic line of Gaudiya, or Bengali, Vaisnavas.

Since the middle ages Gaudiya Vaisnavism has had a continuous following in India, especially West Bengal and Orissa. An important aspect of Gaudiya Vaisnavism is the understanding that the individual soul is an eternal personal identity which does not ultimately merge into any formless light or void. They oppose monistic interpretations of Hinduism and the Bhagavad Gita.

The teachings were popularised in the Western world by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who incorporated ISKCON and published English translations of the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrta and numerous other scriptures, which were then translated to over sixty languages and serve as the canon of the sect. Many of these books are now available online here (http://www.vedabase.net).

The Seven Purposes of ISKCON

When Srila Prabhupada first incorporated ISKCON, in 1966, he gave it seven purposes:

  • To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
  • To propagate a consciousness of Krishna, as it is revealed in the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
  • To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus to develop the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
  • To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy names of God as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
  • To erect for the members, and for society at large, a holy place of transcendental pastimes, dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
  • To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler and more natural way of life.
  • With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.

Spreading the word

ISKCON is actively evangelical. Members try to spread "Krishna consciousness" by, for example, going on the streets to chant their mantra or to sell their books. According to the doctrine of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu one does not need to be born in a Hindu family to take up the practice of Vaishnavism. This openness places ISKCON in strong contrast to many other branches of Hinduism, which may place strong or exclusive stress on hereditary lineage and are non-missionary by nature. Thus there are ISKCON communities around the world with schools, restaurants and farms. Many ISKCON temples also have programs to provide meals for the needy. ISKCON has assimilated Western cultural contexts as it maintains mandirs (temples) in many countries of the world, but still the ISKCON members vow to follow Gaudiya Vaisnava principles, including vegetarianism, and abstinence from gambling, alcohol, sex outside marriage, and intoxication. In the early days of ISKCON many members lived in temples, but nowadays most believers live in their own homes. ISKCON has recently brought the academic study of Krishna into western academia as Krishnaology.

Issues Since Prabhupada's Death

Prabhupada spent much of the last decade of his life setting up the institution of ISKCON. As the charismatic leader, Prabhupada's personality and management were responsible for much of the growth of ISKCON and the reach of his mission.

Upon the death of Prabhupada on November 14, 1977, eleven of his disciples became initiating gurus for ISKCON. Those chosen were: Tamala Krishna Gosvami, Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami [1] (http://www.sdgonline.org/site/index.htm), Jayapataka Swami [2] (http://www.iskcon.net/perth/Biographys/ISKCON_Gurus/Jayapataka_Swami.html#Jaya), Hrdayananda Gosvami, Bhavananda Gosvami, Hamsaduta Swami, Ramesvara Swami, Harikesa Swami, Bhagavan dasa Adhikari, Kirtanananda Swami, and Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari. Of these eleven individuals, only the first four have stayed within ISKCON. While traveling through West Bengal, India, Tamala Krishna Gosvami died in a car crash on March 15, 2002.

Presently ISKCON is managed by the Governing Body Commission. Srila Prabhupada created this body to handle affairs in his absence concerning the daily management and spiritual standards for the organization and its members. The authority and mission of this body has evolved since the time of Prabhupada's death in 1977. Devamrta Swami is currently the Chairman of the Governing Body Commission.

Since the death of Prabhupada, ISKCON experienced a variety of heresies over the next two decades. These heresies include: 1) The Guru is God Heresy 2) The Centralisation Heresy 3) The Zonal Acarya Heresy 4) The Proxy-Initiation Heresy 5) Heresies of Continuity 6) The Sannyasi-Householder Controversy 7) The Gopi-bhava Club Heresy 8) The Rasika-bhakti Heresy 9) The Origin of the Soul Heresy [3] (http://www.iskcon.com/icj/5_1/5_1perils.html) [4] (http://www.iskcon.com/icj/5_1/5_1perils2.html).

Scandal and controversy

Over the years ISKCON and its leadership have been accused of kidnapping, child molestation, obstruction of justice and fraud. In the early 1980s there were a number of lawsuits which resulted in some large financial settlements and the imprisonment of some of its leaders. The most notable lawsuit that reached all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States was that of Robin George and her parents. [5] (http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1993/8/1993-8-15.shtml)

In their book Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness and the Hari Krishnas (ISBN 0451401875) about an American Hare Krishna community called New Vrindaban, authors John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson, wrote of members that were involved in drug smuggling, gun running and possibly even murder.

Following Prabuhpada's death, the U.S. branch of the organization went through years of turmoil and controversy. After much negative plublicty regarding child molestation, in 1998 ISKCON Communications Journal[6] (http://www.iskcon.com/icj/6_1/), the group's official publication, ran an article that detailed the widespread physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children at ISKCON boarding schools in India and the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s.[7] (http://www.rickross.com/reference/krishna/krishna5.html)

ISKCON's founder Srila Prabhupada encouraged members to live in ashrams and to abandon their education thus isolating members from their family. This is one of the reasons that the organization has often been accused of being a cult.

See also

External links

ISKCON:

Reform, issues and replies:

es:Movimiento Hare Krishna fr:Association internationale pour la conscience de Krishna lt:Krišnos Sąmonės religinė bendrija nl:Hare Krishna-beweging pl:Międzynarodowe Towarzystwo Świadomości Kryszny pt:Movimento Hare Krishna fi:Krishna-liike sv:Hare Krishna sr:Кришна

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